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By John E. McIntyre and John E. McIntyre,SUN STAFF | October 19, 2003
The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester. Oxford University Press. 260 pages. $25. The British Empire, which once comprised a quarter of the globe, has dwindled to little more than its original island kingdom, but English is everywhere. When the American Empire follows in due course, English, like Latin, looks to outlive mere political power as a world language. The richness of this extraordinary tongue and its history lie in the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the greatest scholarly endeavors in history.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | August 14, 2014
The screaming hasn't reached me yet (perhaps I should open the windows), but it's sure to come now that Oxford Dictionaries has announced the inclusion of, among other words, adorbs ,  binge-watch ,  cray ,  humblebrag , listicle ,  neckbeard ,  SMH ,  side boob ,  vape , and  YOLO .  When you hear someone braying that this is the greatest blow to civilization since Constantinople fell...
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By Michael Pakenham and Michael Pakenham,SUN BOOKS EDITOR | June 2, 2002
In the beginning, of course, was the word. Since then, thanks to words - sounds, their written forms and precise, specific meanings - a lot has been accomplished by humankind that isn't done routinely by gerbils and rhinoceroses. If the hypothetical challenge were to decide what one book to save from a global, wipe-out-everything fire, the Oxford English Dictionary, known to its pals as the OED, would be neck-in-neck with the Bible. Famously, W.H. Auden often took one of the OED's 20 volumes to bed with him, to browse and then to drift into the arms of Morpheus.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | June 11, 2014
Jonathon Owen has laced into the Chicago Manual of Style at his blog Arrant Pedantry  over the fading  nauseous/nauseated  distinction . His post prompts me to think about how we go about makling usage distinctions. But first let's dispose of nauseous/nauseated . Like a good little copy editor, I started out insisting that nauseous  must mean "causing nausea," not "experiencing nausea," Woody Allen's dialogue notwithstanding.  But I have long since given up on it, for the reasons that Jonathon Owen states: "If 99 percent of the population uses  nauseous  in the sense of  having nausea , then who's to say that they're wrong?
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By RICHARD O'MARA and RICHARD O'MARA,SUN STAFF | October 7, 1998
The Oxford English Dictionary is the biggest unfinished book in the world. It is also probably the only major reference work brought into being with the significant help of a raving lunatic.An American lunatic, at that.The first edition of the OED, published in 1928, defined 414,825 English words. The second edition, in 1989, defined more than half a million. Since then, about 15,000 additional words -- some new, some overlooked -- have been tallied. The third edition, scheduled for 2005, will include all these plus whatever other words are discovered or invented in the meantime.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | February 19, 2012
Some months ago, one Clark Elder Morrow published a screed in The Vocabula Review attacking the Oxford English Dictionary for admitting into its sacred precincts vile things that are "not even words. " Ill-informed and dogmatic prescriptivism is one of the heaviest crosses those of us who aspire to be reasonable and moderate prescriptivists must bear. I responded to Mr. Morrow's post in a post of my own, "I fear that the gentleman is a coxcomb. "  I discover, sadly, that my worst fears have been realized.
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February 6, 2012
Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word: FASCICLE When books are produced by sewing individual sections into the binding, each section is called a fascicle (pronounced FAS-i-kel). It is most particularly used to indicate an installment of a book published separately. The word comes from the Latin fasciculus , a diminutive of fascis , "bundle.
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By John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun | November 29, 2010
Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar -- another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. Use it in a sentence in a comment on his blog, You Don't Say, and the best sentence will be featured next week. This week's word: quidnunc Coined in the 18th century by combining the Latin quid, "what," and nunc, "now," quidnunc indicates a person who is perpetually asking "What now?" That is, a quidnunc is an inquisitive person, a gossip, a busybody, a rumor-monger.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | August 3, 2013
Prescriptivists admire, advocate, and long for precision in language. That is a good thing, in the main, but the longing can easily slip into a false precision. We see that when prescriptivists insist that words must keep strictly to their etymological roots or argue usage from logic rather than practice.  One of those fine points of usage has, I think, finally fallen by the wayside. Raise your hand if you have been schooled to think that the adjective another  can only legitimately refer to one more of the same thing, as when you tell the bartender, "I'll have another.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 15, 2012
Each week The Sun's  John McIntyre  presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar - another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word: EMBONPOINT Some of us, well, many of us, are growing portly or corpulent. All right, fat. But if we wish to dignify our stoutness, no word would be better than embonpoint (pronounced ahn-bohn-pwan). From the French en bon point , "in good condition, it indicates plumpness, sometimes particularly the female bosom.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 19, 2014
Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:  CANON Though a little word, canon  has proved versatile.  It was once, the Oxford English Dictionary indicates, an alternative spelling for cannon . That sense has been obsolete for centuries, so you may hold your fire.  It comes to English from French, ultimately from the Greek kanon , or "rule," and it fits in many places where we look for rules.  It can mean a rule, criterion, or principle, as when one speaks of the canons of good taste.  It can mean a law or set of laws.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 14, 2014
Ammon Shea performed a feat of nerdish athleticism, reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary , and then wrote a charming book about the experience .  He has written other books on language as well. It's a dangerous thing to publish a book, particularly about language; it attracts attention. And Mr. Shea got some. We'll let him explain: "I began to receive a large number of letters from concerned citizens who felt that I was contributing to the decline of the English language.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 3, 2014
Tom Freeman, the Stroppy Editor, has tweeted as @SnoozeInBrief: "Simon Heffer warns of 47 'common mistakes' in English. By my count, he has 15 fair points, 13 debatable, 19 rubbish," and I have not the strength to resist so gorgeous a target.  Mr. Heffer, formerly a journalist with the Daily Telegraph  and Daily Mail  and the author of  Strictly English: The Correct Way to Write... and Why it Matters , writes in the  Daily Mail article to which Mr. Freeman refers with the dogmatism so frequently displayed in the works of the peeververein.  As you may have guessed, the rubbish interests me more than either the fair points or the debatable ones, and countering the rubbish in an unending activity.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | April 29, 2014
Last month the Associated Press Stylebook  sent out a notice of a change in the forthcoming edition: "New to Stylebook: (sic) is used to show quoted material or person's words include a misspelling, incorrect grammar, odd usage. " This is an ill-advised decision, one that I hope that publications using AP style will disregard.  Writing at Sentence first , Stan Carey quotes Jessica Mitford: " I do not like the repeated use of  sic . It seems to impart a pedantic, censorious quality to the writing.
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | March 14, 2014
Writing at Sentence First   Stan Carey looks at some short works by Robert Burchfield the philologist/lexicographer who worked on the Oxford English Dictionary  and produced an updated edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage .  He concludes by quoting a short passage that you may want to post above your desk as a corrective to the ill-informed crotchets of viewers-with-alarm who imagine that this word, or that usage, or...
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By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | February 11, 2014
Earlier today, as we were looking at the warnings of the impending White Doom from Above, I was asked to weigh in on the northeaster/nor'easter  issue.  Both terms refer to a storm with northeast winds. Merriam-Webster's Unabridged lists only the first spelling, tracing it to 1753. The Oxford English Dictionary  has a 1753 citation from the Boston Post-boy for northeaster  and an 1837 citation for nor'easter from a translation of Aristophanes' Knights .  So both have pedigree, which leaves us in the treacherous situation of basing a judgment on social, cultural, or regional factors.  My suspicion is that nor'easter  is a colloquial shortening of the original word, which is borne out by some of the evidence, such as the OED 's citation from A.J. Cronin's Hatter's Castle (1931)
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By John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun | April 18, 2011
Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word: EGREGIOUS Language very frequently goes topsy-turvy. In English, we have a number of words that bear opposite meanings, such as cleave , which sometimes means "to stick to" and sometimes "to split apart. " If you look at a dictionary that operates on historical principles, like the Oxford English Dictionary, you'll find that the first definition, the earliest one, for egregious (ee-GREE-jus)
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By From news services | February 16, 2003
As it approaches the record for longest-running comedy on television (only Ozzie and Harriet Nelson lasted longer), The Simpsons, Fox's animated theater of the absurd, marks its 300th episode tonight. Here are a few signposts along the show's invasion of popular culture: 1988: Cartoonist Matt Groening's characters are unveiled in a series of vignettes on Fox's The Tracey Ullman Show. The Simpsons makes its debut the next year, climbing into the top 15 in weekly ratings. 1990: Newspapers begin convening therapists to ask them whether Homer and Marge Simpson are good parents.
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